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Anthracite Bike Coalition cooperative to open at Scranton’s Connell Park

Tom Riese
An old concession stand and storage building at Connell Park will be converted into a bike shop co-op in the near future.

The bicycle cooperative will teach riders how to work on their bikes for free, with the option of volunteering to earn a bike if you're an adult. Kids might even walk away with a free bike.

Connell Park, in Scranton's South Side, will soon have a bicycle cooperative on its grounds.

Gene McDonough of the Anthracite Bike Coalition (ABC) said that he signed a contract with the City of Scranton last week. The paperwork still needs to be finalized, but representatives from the group hope that the rehabilitation project will begin in the next 90 days. In the meantime, he plans to organize park cleanups.

Located between the playground and the football field at the park on Gibbons Street, the former storage garage and concession stand will be converted into a bike shop co-op that will teach community members how to work on bikes. Members of the community will also be able to earn a bike. McDonough said the bike coalition had been looking for a location for the last two years.

McDonough learned what a bicycle cooperative was while spending time in Arizona. He ended up being introduced to Bike Saviours, a bike co-op in Tempe, AZ.

“A bicycle cooperative is a facility where you can show up with your bicycle and work on it,” he said. “Long story short, I ended up building a $3000 or $2800 bicycle for less than $600 in used parts.”

McDonough did all the work himself.

“Bicycles are very simple. There’s only a couple moving parts on them. As long as you keep those moving parts oiled and greased, those bikes will continue to move,” he said.

He knew he had to bring the bicycle cooperative idea to Scranton. The co-op model gives riders guidance while they work on their bikes. The idea is to make riders self-sufficient when it comes to repairs.

He proposed the idea to ABC’s board a few years ago, and it was approved. Then, the pandemic put his plans on hold.

Carl Deeley, former business administrator for the city, had already started a similar project. The bike coalition decided to partner with Deeley, and eventually took over the co-op project for themselves.

ABC partnered with the city in 2021. They made a deal that diverted money toward improvements for Connell Park. Instead of spending money to demolish the old concession stand and build something new, ABC asked the city to spend that money on a pump track.

The Anthracite Bike Coalition negotiated with the City of Scranton to create a dirt pump track for bicycles at Connell Park instead of spending money on the building's demolition.
Tom Riese
The Anthracite Bike Coalition negotiated with the City of Scranton to create a dirt pump track for bicycles at Connell Park instead of spending money on the building's demolition.

The park’s pump track is made of packed dirt. It’s meant to teach riders how to maintain momentum. BMX, gravel, or mountain bikes are best suited for this type of track. Road bikes, which have thinner tires, might not be able to maneuver the course as easily.

If you don’t own a bicycle, McDonough has an option.

“If we have a bike that will fit you, we’ll give the children the bicycle,” McDonough said. “We’re not looking for a donation. If you can make a donation, great. If not, sign the paperwork, and take the bicycle.”

For adults, there will be an “earn a bike” program. Community members will be able to do volunteer work, which ABC will honor as credit toward payment on a bike.

“We say, 'okay, that bike is worth $100.' You give us four hours of work, we’ll give you that bike,” he said.

If that hypothetical $100 bike needs to be tuned up, the co-op will sell you used parts or new mid-range parts at a low cost, and teach you how to fix it yourself.

McDonough said Anthracite Bike Coalition’s ultimate goal is to get more Scrantonians riding bikes sustainably and affordably.

Tom Riese is a multimedia reporter and the local host for NPR's Morning Edition. He comes to NEPA by way of Philadelphia. He is a York County native who studied journalism at Temple University.